Saturday, January 26, 2019

PCE Game 24 - Ruin: Kami no Isan

Ruin: Kami no Isan (ルイン 神の遺産)
Released 11/19/1993, published by Victor Entertainment

Back to the PC Engine for another action RPG. On the whole I've been disappointed by the other action RPGs I've played -- I'm sure that I just have too much nostalgia for Ys and overlook its flaws as well. This game is also rather disappointing, although I would put it ahead of the other action RPGs I've played (Xak and Auleria).

I recorded a 45 minute video since there was no gameplay video on youtube. It's on Twitch; I had problems copying it to youtube. I also apologize for the poor voice quality -- I've ordered a better microphone that should improve future videos.

The game opens with an old woman narrating the backstory. Since I was recording I forgot to take screenshots, but you can view them here (or in the video). The basic idea is that the age of gods ended when there was a huge war and gods destroyed the world, leaving behind only the gods of life and death, who cried. The final tear created the humans, monsters, and the god of destruction Ruin. Judging from the pictures, it looks like this is going to turn out to be a mythologized version of a nuclear war or something like that.

Our main characters are Jan and Altena. Jan is good with a sword but bad at magic, and Altena has been studying in a monastery as the daughter of the great high priest Zemo.

Jan and Altena find a map in the attic of their house that shows an X which Altena hopes is some treasure, and they set out to find it.

The battle system is not that great. All of the monsters in the game other than the bosses have the same attack method -- touching you to do damage. As far as I have seen (I'm about 75% done) there are no enemies with projectile weapons, swords to slash, or anything like that. You can only control Jan, who basically just has the sword attack. Fortunately the PC Engine has a turbo setting on the basic controller, which helps a lot. Later Jan will get magic but it quickly runs out and is needed for boss fights. The other characters are NPCs which help out a lot (too much, but we'll get to that later). If Jan dies it's game over, if Altena dies she'll pop back up once the battle ends.

Now to be fair, I don't think anyone would credit Ys I&II with a great battle system, and so compared to the other games that are out in the era, this is OK. One big annoyance is the night and day system. As far as I can tell it has no effect on the game other than making the screen so dark you can barely see anything.

The X turns out to be not a treasure, but a marking of a "sacred area". Apparently these "sacred areas" are left by the gods, and it's only by the "breath of the gods" coming from these areas that humans can live. Altena gets bored and starts to head back -- but then we hear that monsters have attacked. We head for the castle, where Altena's father is.

Someone should add up all the dead parents in RPGs. Anyway, Zemo (Altena's father) is dying, and he thinks that the Time of Prophecy is here, and that the King of Beasts (Monsters) will soon be revived. We heard about Schwartz, the Hero of Prophecy, who is in the area, so maybe he'll help. Zemo tells us to save Demisant (our hometown) and to find Princess Sharol, who has been kidnapped by the monsters.

So we head back to Demisant and find that monsters have destroyed the town, but that everyone (including Jan's mom) has managed to escape. We also meet Schwartz, who doesn't think he's the Prophecy Hero (gee, I wonder who is). Apparently the Hero is supposed to be descended from a god and a human, and Schwartz's parents were both humans. Convenient that we only know about Jan's mom right now.
Dusk, it gets darker
Schwartz joins us and we head off to find Jan's mom. Schwartz is level 24 and quite strong. This brings up another problem with this game -- you eventually have 4 people, and generally fight at most two monsters. The battles are often over before Jan can even reach the enemies. This would be bad enough except that Jan only gains experience for killing an enemy himself. I've found that this makes grinding extremely difficult to the point where I basically only gain levels from boss fights (where everyone gains XP). Monsters give so little XP and it's so hard to kill them before the NPCs get them that grinding is basically not a solution unless you really want to waste a lot of time. I guess this can be seen as a good thing too, though.

In the next town we find that Jan's mom has continued on, but we now have the chance to save Princess Sharol. An old man named Garickson joins instead of Schwartz, and Schwartz gives a God Stone that he has to Jan. Supposedly the six God Stones go to the Prophecy Hero, but Schwartz has a feeling that Jan will make better use of it than he will.

The first boss is the Evil General Loki, one of six underlings of the Beast King. All I did was run away and the NPCs killed him. I tried to participate but Jan died almost instantly. Anyway, we manage to save Sharol, who now becomes a party member (Altena starts getting jealous of her attention to Jan).

We return to Demisant which has been rebuilt, and then the next mission is to escort Sharol to the eastern continent so she can talk to the king there. After a short fetch quest to convince a captain to give us a boat, we head across the sea.

We meet the king of East Gurnica, and immediately set out to defeat the next Evil General, Gazel. The dungeons are generally fairly short. You usually have to go through a few overworld areas, then the dungeon area with a couple of chests and the boss.

I died instantly on this boss the first few times I tried, but then did manage to move up one level by grinding and beat him on the second try just by attacking from behind while the NPCs occupied his front. After beating Gazel we receive the next god stone, which lets Jan heal or revive companions. The way the magic works is that you can press the II button to shoot out a missile, or you can hold the button down to do more advanced magic (like the healing). This healing is very important for boss fights.

Now that we've beaten Gazel, the king recognizes our ability and gives Jan the third god stone. Better still, Jan finds his mom in town!

Schwartz immediately falls in love with her. Mom also tells Jan that his dad was a mysterious person and may have been a god. Apparently gods can't use magic, so that might be why Jan can't -- but the fact that he can use it with the God Stones supports the idea. Also basic RPG logic that the main character is always the Hero.

Now we need to head to East Gurnica to find more bosses and stones, but the ship is not able to cross a place of storms -- what we need is the legendary thread that can make a sail able to withstand the storm. We head to a village that supposedly preserved knowledge of this legendary thread, and end up visiting a Sacred Area. Of course, these Sacred Areas turn out to be some kind of bunker or installation left by the "gods".

There are computers and other technology in there, but no people or gods...there is a boss waiting for us, though!

This is Bash, who shoots dudes out of four openings, who rush you and then explode into shots that do damage. I tried this a bunch of times and died within 10 seconds. I tried to level but I just couldn't beat enemies before the NPCs got to them, or at least not fast enough to make grinding a reasonable solution.

At this point I almost gave up on the game but I found a Nicovideo playthrough of the game where the guy just stood in the corner and used the heal magic while the three NPCs beat up the boss. I tried this and it worked, but this is really not a good balance for the game. At least in games like Ys you have to learn the boss patterns to try to beat them, but I'm not sure it's even possible with this game.

That's where I'll stop this post -- it's a little over halfway through the game. The next part is just beating the other Generals and getting the other stones before we get to the final story sections, but I'll cover that next time.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Game 33 - Super Chinese World 2

Super Chinese World 2 (スーパーチャイニーズワールド2 宇宙一武闘大会)
Released 10/29/1993, published by Culture Brain

This is yet another game in the prolific series "Super Chinese", a series of mostly blends of action and RPGs, with a few pure action or fighting games. Zenic Reverie covered a few of the earlier entries that had been localized: Little Ninja Brothers, Ninja Boy 2, and Super Ninja Boy. The previous games seem to have had a mix between platform stages, random action-based battles, and command-style RPG fights for the boss battles. SCW2 dropped the command-style fights and retained only the action and platformer sections.

I'm not all that good at action games. I've managed to complete most of the early Mega Man games, but fighting games are a particular weakness of mine. When Street Fighter 2 came out I was never able to get Ryu to do the Hadoken, and I've never really improved that much. So this game is not my preference. I often felt like the characters weren't doing what I wanted them to do, but that could be my own lack of skill or emulator issues, or game design.

The game begins at a "space peace conference", but then the Galaxy Warriors (who I gather are standard antagonists in this series) arrive. They kidnap the rulers, including the ruler of Chinaland where our main characters Jack and Ryu hail from. Shubabarn, a leader of the GWs, demands that we enter a martial arts tournament to get him back, but to even reach the tournament we'll have to find a bunch of star fragments.

Jack and Ryu set out, but crashland on the first planet.

A nearby town has the first shops and a convenience store, which gives you a password. Yes, in 1993 we're using passwords to save. Fortunately emulators have save states to get around that annoyance. Also the first battles.

A battle shows you the enemies, and then gives you the chance to run or fight. I'm not a big fan of the way the fights develop. They start with 2 or 3 enemies. When you beat one, another comes in. The fight simply ends after a while, based on a combination of time and how many enemies you beat. I would prefer simply beating the enemies there to end the fight. There are boxes that give you items (I never figured out what the S icons did), especially good is the hammer that kills enemies in one hit. There are various moves you can do, and L can use items (like a sword), whereas R does techniques (healing, escape, fire rain, etc).

You soon gain the ability to transform into "Hyper Chinese" form by holding down L until the K-meter at the top left fills. This gives a bit more power and some new moves, including special moves that I never really learned how to use (I should have had an instruction manual for this game).

The other aspect of the game, which comes up quickly, are the platform sections.

This was definitely my least favorite part of the game. I felt like the control was clunky compared to designed action games like Rockman or Mario. A lot of them have scrolling screens where if it catches up with you you die (and lose half HP). Enemies often knock you way back into pits. And such. I used a lot of save states to pass these parts.

The game goes in a standard way -- you arrive at a town, have to solve some problem there, and then get either a way to progress to the next place, or a star fragment. There are five galaxies with several planets each, which might make it seem like quite a long game. But after the first two galaxies, the remaining three have no world maps on any of the planets. Maybe they ran out of development time, but in the end the game is pretty short.

About 3/4 of the way through the game you get very powerful swords that pretty much slaughter the rest of the bosses with little trouble -- I was happy to see this given my difficulty with the action aspect of the game.

Eventually we reach the tournament, which is a bunch of bosses one after the other. Jack and Ryu win, of course, and then beat Shubaban. But it turns out that Ginga Maola, the head of the Galaxy Warriors, abandons Shubaban and begins to use a big weapon that will destroy all planets in the galaxy. After fighting some old bosses again (including a mind-controlled Shubaban), we reach Ginga Maola.

He has several forms, but the powerful swords plus some healing techniques make it not so bad. The only tough one is the first form, which you have to beat with counterattacks. I never got the hold of guarding vs. moving backwards (both of which are left/right D-pad), but I managed to do it just by mashing the buttons until it worked.

Jack and Ryu save the universe and their king, and live happily ever least until Super Chinese World 3.

Regular updates with a bit more substance will be back next week. I'm skipping Aktarion, localized as Secret of the Seven Stars, and Ys IV, which I played a couple of years ago (and isn't all that good). Next up is a PCE action RPG called Ruin: Kami no Isan.